An original Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member says goodbye to the show

Jun 29, 2015 at 11:43 p.m. ET
Image: Bravo

After eight seasons of fighting, quipping and making fans laugh, original The Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member NeNe Leakes is leaving.

It's a sad day for The Real Housewives of Atlanta fans: NeNe Leakes is not returning for Season 8. The reality star turned actress told People she has decided not to re-sign her contract. Given how fast Leakes' star has been on the rise in recent years, her departure was inevitable, but that doesn't make it sting any less. Her vivacious personality will be impossible for the producers to replace.

More: Was NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak's road trip a terrible idea?

For her part, Leakes sounds more than ready for her next adventure. Although she struggled with the decision, Leakes told People, "I feel a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders."

Moving on means Leakes can focus on her career goals without the demanding schedule of a reality series standing in her way. In recent years, Leakes has shown promise as a comedic actress in shows like Glee and The New Normal. Whatever she does next, her passionate fans are sure to follow.

More: RHOA's Kandi Burruss' bizarre list of demands will make you giggle

Where does this leave The Real Housewives of Atlanta, though? Leakes was by far the show's most recognizable cast member and an original member, too. Without her, the show will be missing its anchor, but it also might give the other women a chance to grab the spotlight. The question is: Do any of the other women have a personality as strong as Leakes'?

More: Kim Zolciak's Instagram rant is epic and a definite must-see

There is one small glimmer of hope, though. Leakes is not ruling out the occasional return to the show that made her a household name. "I'm not saying I'm gone forever," Leakes informed People. "I'll probably pop up and play with those girls every now and then."

Do you think The Real Housewives of Atlanta can survive without Leakes?

Real Housewives slideshow